Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

"Banned in 492 Countries!" the box cover for the cannibal flick ‘Isle of the Damned’ proclaims. Considering that I believe that there are a recognized 195 countries on the planet Earth right now, this is a movie that is so shocking and so repulsive that countries that don’t even exist anymore have banned this film and any new countries that might be popping up in the near future will make their first order business banning ‘Isle of the Damned’. Of course ‘Isle of the Damned’ is banned nowhere except maybe in parts of Utah considering that what we have here is actually a spoof of those wacked out cannibal flicks that Deodato and his ilk were putting out in Italy back in the late seventies and early eighties at a rapid pace. But is it a good spoof of those admittedly suspect movies? While the use of the word ‘good’ is truly subjective here, but ‘Isle of Damned’ sure was entertaining, that’s for damn sure.

As legend has it infamous Italian director Antonello Giallo shot this movie in Argentina back in the 80’s and the subject matter was so shocking and so vile that the Argentinean government brought my man on charges and were all set to convict him unless he could physically produce the actors who were emulsified during his film. I forget if he was able to do this or not. Under wraps for close to thirty years, finally the public at large can at long last see the masterpiece that Giallo was working on.

It seems on some lost island rests the treasure of Marco Polo and this treasure is coveted mightily by the scurrilous Mister Cain (Dustin Edwards). To guide him through this dangerous trip, Cain has hired hard nosed professional tough guy Jack Steele (Larry Gamber) who thought it was a really good idea to bring his teenaged sexually challenged foster son Billy (Peter Crates) along with him on this perilous journey.

Our crew isn’t on this rock long before they witness the horror of the cannibal menace. Cannibals rape, murder, disembowel, shoot blow darts, arrows, devour fetuses, violate rabbits and do all kinds of unsavory things that one would expect from a savage. In fact our heroes would’ve been toast themselves if it wasn’t for the timely appearance of the erudite Alexis Kincaid (Keith Tveit Langsdorf) and his trusty ninja / Yakuza man servant.

Kincaid warns these searchers that the treasure of Marco Polo is eeeevillll, and the tough as nails Jack Steele heeds this warning, however the completely distasteful Mr. Cain will stop at nothing to claim his booty. Eventually all of this death and carnage and intestine devouring will show us the truth. That truth being that I have looked into the eye of the savage and discovered I was looking at myself!

It is clear after watching director Mark Colegrove’s film ‘Isle of the Damned’ that this movie was a movie made by a group of young people with waaaaayyyy too much time on their hands. Now I’ve seen my fair share of sleazy Italian cannibal flicks which is absolutely, positively necessary if you are going to watch this movie and get any kind of enjoyment out of it, and while I caught a lot of the cannibal references, I was nowhere close to getting them all, parsing off some these filmed horrors as original thought, but this does mean these cats have probably spent a good amount of their time watching every conceivable Italian cannibal movie ever made. It’s a genre all unto itself so there’s a bunch of them out there. I actually had to dust off my copy of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ before I watched this movie, noting that even though I own the movie I’ve never watched it because a good friend of mine warned me not to, but then he is kind of bitch and this kind of research was critical to this thesis.

One thing I didn’t quite get were the fake mustaches. I don’t remember fake mustaches in any of those movies. I also didn’t quite understand the little Billy sexual abuse patricide angle. That might’ve gotten pulled from some sleazy Italian thriller I missed along the way, though me not recognizing the reference didn’t make it any less funny.

And no doubt ‘Isle of the Damned’ was indeed funny. Starting off with the horrible dubbing which I was pretty sure would get pretty old pretty quick, but for some reason it never did for me. I think it was the voice of Jack Steele that kept killing me. Again if you haven’t wasted brainspace watching at least a couple of these Cannibal movies 90% of the humor will be lost and thus watching a baby’s head ground into a rock by the heel of some dudes boot would perhaps lose its humor out of context. Observing someone get gang raped by natives while his supposed rescuers look on in horror wouldn’t have been so funny if the same damn thing didn’t happen in ‘Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals’. You see the value of research?

My concern with this movie is that often when spoof type movies play it crooked or try to be stupid they end up being just that and only that. It’s been my limited experience that playing a ridiculous concept straight, say the way ‘Black Dynamite’ played the blaxploitation genre, is usually the best way to approach this. For whatever reason the crooked approach worked with ‘Isle of the Damned’. Maybe the visual of somebody jabbing a serrated edged knife up someone’s asshole is difficult to play straight, I don’t know, and I don’t want to think about it too much… but it worked here.

‘Isle of the Damned’ is pretty damned funny and its pretty damned stupid. We can’t stress this enough, if you haven’t seen the horrible cannibal movies that thing lampoons do not waste your time, otherwise have at it.

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